Here is this week's position breakdown where, after watching the game tape, I evaluate each position from not only this past game, but where they stack up throughout the season.
Quarterback: Tony Romo was able to get through the Atlanta game clean turnover wise but the lack of a true running game is putting a great deal of pressure on him to have to almost be perfect every snap. There were some throws that were made under pressure that were outstanding but with the current play of the line, that's what he is going to have to do from here on out. In the Giants there were some questionable throws accuracy wise but he was much better in this contest. The offense once again clicked in the no huddle attack which Romo looks very comfortable in when the team gets in 11 personnel. Jason Garrett needs to find ways to generate points for all these yards, this might be his way to help Romo.
Wide Receivers: Dez Bryant was banged up two weeks ago against the Giants and missed practice all week. I wasn't worried so much about Bryant's health as I was his missing practice time which is something he cannot afford to have happen. Bryant made it through the game without further problems and studying the film afterwards, didn't look like he was confused or unsure of his responsibilities. Didn't have as many opportunities that I thought he was going to have against these Falcons cornerbacks. Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris got practice work last week and looked prepared as well. I believe you will see them in more roles in the second half of the season if the Cowboys go to this no huddle attack that uses three wide receivers.
Running Backs: Felix Jones played better against the Falcons than he did against the Giants but still this club really misses DeMarco Murray who is beginning fourth week of his four to six week injury so I would say that he is OUT again this week. Jason Garrett has tried to piece this running game together the best he can with the players that he has to work with. Phillip Tanner was better against Carolina but struggled against Giants so he wasn't as much of a factor which led Garrett to have to use more Lance Dunbar. I knew going into the game that Dunbar was going to have some special packages for the game and I expect more of that going forward. Something to also look at is Garrett using more runs out of shot gun formation.
Tight Ends: Against the Falcons, Jason Witten became the all-time leader for receptions in a Cowboys uniform. Was on the staff that helped bring Jason to Dallas and have to say that he is everything that we thought he would be as a player and person. Witten was able to get some things going when the Cowboys went to the no huddle attack working the middle of the field. It was a quiet game for John Phillips and James Hanna reception wise. Hanna did have a missed block on special teams but because Garrett played so much 11 personnel, they didn't get much of an opportunity. This week, the Eagles struggle at safety, so look for these tight end to have more of a role.
Offensive line: It's real easy to beat up on this line but from the Atlanta game, there were some positives. Mackenzy Bernadeau continued to play at a nice level since almost losing his job against the Panthers three weeks ago, Doug Free had another solid game playing with better technique. Tyron Smith was not as consistent as he has been in the last few weeks. Where the struggles came from in the Falcons game was inside with Nate Livings and Ryan Cook. When this team really has trouble running the ball, it's when they don't handle the down men and get blockers on the linebackers. Unblocked defenders kill plays and the Cowboys have had more than their share of these types of plays. Livings also struggled in pass protection with his set and sustain for the second straight week after playing better before the Giants game.
Defensive Line: The team got a scare when Jay Ratliff was laying on the field after a play during the Falcons two minute drive before the half. Ratliff battled a high ankle sprain during the first four games of the season and the fear was that he had reinjured that ankle but Ratliff was able to tough it out and return to the game in the second half. In his place Josh Brent got himself back on track after struggling to get off blocks against the Giants. When Brent gets in trouble, he doesn't use his hands or strength to his advantage. Against a quality center in Todd McClure, he was able to do both. Watch the play of Kenyon Coleman for these next eight weeks of the season. Coleman has had a history of playing well the first half of the season then wearing down.
Linebackers: Bruce Carter has done his best to fill the shoes of Sean Lee. Carter was all over the field against the Falcons and in this matchup against the Eagles, will need to do much of the same against LeSean McCoy who can be a matchup nightmare running and catching the ball. I have a strong feeling with all that the Eagles have gone through offensively that they will make this game about McCoy and his talents. Ernie Sims didn't play poorly against the Falcons in his injury start for Dan Connor and if Connor cannot go this weekend, Sims will once again be called on. Sims was a step late on the ball that Michael Turner was able to get on the outside for a big gain. Sims is known for his ability to get to the ball and make tackles. Much like Carter, he is going to be responsible for McCoy on these sprint draws, screens and shovel passes they like to run with him. We have said this before about DeMarcus Ware and his matchup with tackles he should dominate and this is one of those times. Ware should have a huge advantage in this game if they are forced to block him one-on-one.
Secondary: Didn't think that Gerald Sensabaugh and Danny McCray played their best games against the Falcons so look for them to bounce back against the Eagles who are not afraid to take some shots down the field with these receivers. Where the secondary has had their problems has been in zone coverage. To many times where receivers have been passed off only to have space to work and make receptions. Where this group has been good is when they lock up on receivers much like we saw against the Giants. When Carr, Claiborne, Scandrick and Jenkins are good is when they can contest ball in the air. I understand that you have to give quarterbacks zone looks but if Rob Ryan would limit those coverage situations I have seen this group play better.
Special Teams: Dwayne Harris and Lance Dunbar have taken over the kickoff and punt return duties and has flashed some ability to make some productive returns. I really do like Harris' sure hands but he also plays with some vision and wiggle bringing the ball up the field. His first return against the Falcons was a thing of beauty and was well blocked. If he and Dunbar get dependable blocking, there is a possibility to create better field position for the offense.